The Bishop Murray Memorial Home was named after the Right Reverend Dr Murray and was established in a cottage that had been purchased by the Rev Dr Murray in 1870. Bishop Murray bought a number of adjacent properties and left in 1875. The cottages became Sacred Heart College for Boys (1875-1904). The site was then leased as a residence during the construction of the North Coast Railway Line.
In June 1909 a school at Campbell's Hill opened with about 27 boys and girls. Three Sisters of Mercy travelled from East Maitland Convent to run the school, but by May 1910 the Convent and Orphanage were ready for occupation. Nineteen girls and three more Sisters of Mercy arrived from Singleton to start the institution.
On 23 May 1910 the Right Reverend Dwyer, Bishop of Maitland, blessed and reopened the renovated buildings of the college as the Bishop Murray Memorial Home. Sacred Heart Infants' School was added in 1915. In 1918 Sacred Heart Church was opened next to the Orphanage, making Monte Pio a hub for education and religious activities for the Maitland community.
By 1919 there were 90 girls living at the school, eight Sisters and 169 school children. Funds to run the home were raised from fees for families, donations from locals and an annual concert called 'The Continental.'
In 1942, after a Japanese submarine bombed Newcastle Harbour, the children at the Murray Dwyer Home for Boys, and the Daughters of Charity who ran the boys' home, moved to Monte Pio. They remained for the duration of the war and returned to Newcastle in 1945. Monte Pio also billeted evacuees during the Maitland floods of 1949 and 1955.
Secondary education was not offered to girls at Monte Pio until 1953, when a Home Science School, and a general programme of education, was added. This was called Our Lady of Mercy Science High School for Girls but closed in 1962. From 1963 girls travelled to Dominican College and the local state high school for secondary education.
Around 1940-1950 a new wing of the Orphanage was built, replacing the 1870s buildings on site. At the beginning of 1972 Monte Pio was closed and the remaining girls were transferred to Adamstown. Sacred Heart Infant School remained and the buildings were taken over by the Edmund Gleeson House of Studies, under the Redemptorist Fathers.
From 1985 the site has been converted to a conference centre and motel and in 1990 it was sold to Country Comfort. In 2005 it was sold to a private operator. In 2013 it is called Monte Pio and is an accommodation and conference venue.
As attitudes changed to the institutional care of children the Sisters of Mercy decided to close Monte Pio. The Monte Pio Orphanage closed on 23 January 1973 and the remaining girls were moved to Adamstown, to the care of house parents.
Unfortunately, very few records of children accommodated at this Home have survived. The information that does exist is located at the offices of CatholicCare Hunter-Manning Social Services. This agency has developed a database which lists the name of the child in care, their date of admission and discharge, and a cross reference to the surviving original records.
Monte Pio was mentioned in the Lost Innocents Report (2001) as an institution potentially involved in the migration of children to Australia.
04 June 2020
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nsw/NE00116
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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